richardglover.co.uk

Geek, part-time cyclist, ecoist, bad photographer, vegetarian. I fiddle with WordPress and Edu Tech.

Tag: apple

Getting ‘eContent’ onto supervised iPads

Managing a large number of iPads can be frustrating, getting content onto them even more so. If you want to manage the applications available on the iPads, Apple Configurator is your man, if you want to manage the content on them you need to find another way to do it.

I was asked to load a self created iBook onto a number of iPads, helpfully the iBooks application doesn’t support iTunes File Sharing, a system that lets you copy files between your computer and apps on iOS devices. Other Apple apps do support it, Pages, Keynote, but not iBooks.

So I thought another way to do it would be to put the iBooks file in Dropbox, download it from Dropbox on iPad 1, open it in iBooks, backup iPad 1 (that now has the iBook installed on it) and restore it to the other iPads that need the iBook on them.

Unfortunately, for reasons not know to me this doesn’t work. The iBook appears in the iBooks application, but without the iBooks’ cover art. Tapping on the icon starts something, but after a second the icon disappears and the bookshelf goes back to being empty.

I could have gone to each iPad and logged into Dropbox to get the file on each of them, but I was trying to keep the workflow short. The method I finally came up with, still involves some manual interaction, but cuts it down.

First of all I uploaded the .ibooks file to a public facing web server, when you link to files on Dropbox it doesn’t just serve up the file immediately, you need to click on a download link first. Hosting the file on a normal web server gets rid of this step.

In Apple Configurator I created a new profile, in the profile I configured a new Web Clip, a Web Clip is just a link to a specific site or web page that creates an icon on the home screen.

Apple Configurator - Web Clip

Apple Configurator – Web Clip

The title can be anything, the URL is the link to the file you uploaded earlier. I left all the other settings, hit Save and applied the profile to all the devices that needed the iBook.

On each device all I had to do was tap the new icon on the home screen, it opens Safari and navigates to my .ibooks file on the webserver, it gives the option of opening the file in the iBooks application and that’s it, the iBook is saved to the application.

Once the iBook is on the device you’ll want to remove the profile from the devices to remove the icon from the home screen.

Whilst it’s more difficult to get iBooks content onto devices via Apple Configurator, Adobe Acrobat Reader does support iTunes File Sharing so you could drop PDF files onto the devices fairly easily but we specifically needed iBooks support.

Apple Configurator 1.4, iOS 7 and Eduroam

Today I sat down to configure a set of Apple iPads to connect to our institutional Wi-Fi network, we use eduroam based around a WPA2 setup.

For anyone who has already used Apple Configurator you’ll know it’s pretty straight forward. Enter a few network details, give it a certificate if needed, save and refresh your devices.

It didn’t go as easy as that. I’d previously setup an Apple TV to connect to the network so I knew I could use Apple Configurator to do what I needed, I went about entering the network details, SSID, Security Type, Protocols and Trusts etc. But whenever I pushed the profiles to the devices they wouldn’t connect to the wireless network.

Apple Configurator

Apple Configurator – Getting the right settings for Eduroam

It all came down to the Security Type setting, although we use WPA2 Enterprise it didn’t seem to like that option and only when (3 hours later) I tried Any (Enterprise) did it actually work.

Dropbox

I remember being at college and having to carry a plastic box full of 3.5″ floppy disks around with me. Every so often fluff from the deepest, darkest corners of the earth would infiltrate the shutter and… Abort, Retry, Fail? Shit, all my (hard) work consumed.

A few years pass and USB flash drives arrive on the scene, although they started out expensive, slow and lacking in any great capacity they we’re much more durable than floppy disks and as time went on physical size decreased, storage space and speed increased exponentially.

So for the last few years I’ve been carrying around a 16GB OCZ Rally2, it’s battered and I’ve lost the plastic cap that keeps the USB connector free from dust but it works and it’s quick. Then one day I was walking to work and I found a USB flash drive on the pavement, I picked it up and wondered if I could reunite it with its owner. Plugging it in to a virtual machine in a sandbox I tried to see if I could identify who it belonged to, it had a few Word documents on it but nothing that would help me identify the owner.

I started to think about all the personally identifiable information I had on my flash drive, my CV, letters to my bank, job applications, all things I wouldn’t really want people to read if for whatever reason I mislaid the drive. Looking around the Internet I decided upon the not so elegant solution of creating an encrypted partition on the drive using TrueCrypt, it did the job but I had to rely on being able to install TrueCrypt on any machine I needed to access the encrypted files from.

Recently I stumbled upon Dropbox, a web based file hosting service. They offer a freemium service that gives 2GB of storage which can be increased by referring users to the site and they’ll double the referral bonus space for users registering with an academic email address (this also works for .ac.uk addresses).

Once registered you download the client app, install it and choose a place on your computer to display a shared folder, anything you drop into the folder is synchronised to Dropbox and it appears on any other machine or device you have the software installed on.

What I really like about the service is just how many Operating Systems and devices are supported, I can share files between my Mac, my Windows 7 PC which dual boots to Ubuntu and my Android smart phone. The connection is over SSL and all the files stored on Dropbox are encrypted.

A few years ago, this type of service just wouldn’t have been practical, we’ve got a 20Mbit Internet connection at home and I’m lucky enough to be connected to an academic network at 155Mbit at work so moving files about is virtually seamless. I carry my smart phone with me everywhere so I can grab files on the go plus Dropbox can be accessed through any web browser if you don’t have the rights to install the client.

I don’t have to worry about losing my flash drive, damaging the USB connector or just how long the flash memory chips inside it are going to last, everything is stored on Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) and it just works!

Not only does Dropbox let me keep private files, I can share any of my files with other people, I can create a Public folder that anyone can have access to and I can even upload images to galleries and give people access without them having to have a Dropbox account.

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